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Magnetic Woman

Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (Russian and East European Studies)

Karla Huebner


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Part art book and part biography, Magnetic Woman examines the life and work of the artist Toyen (Marie Čermínová, 1902–80), a founding member of the Prague surrealist group, and focuses on her construction of gender and eroticism. Toyen’s early life in Prague enabled her to become a force in three avant-garde groups—Devětsil, Prague surrealism, and Paris surrealism—yet, unusually for a female artist of her generation, Toyen presented both her gender and sexuality as ambiguous and often emphasized erotic themes in her work. Despite her importance and ground-breaking work, Toyen has been notoriously difficult to study. Using primary sources gathered from disparate disciplines and studies of the artist’s own work, Magnetic Woman is organized both chronologically and thematically, moving through Toyen’s career with attention to specific historical circumstances and intellectual developments approximately as they entered her life.  Karla Huebner offers a re-evaluation of surrealism, the Central European contribution to modernism, and the role of female artists in the avant-garde, along with a complex and nuanced view of women’s roles in and treatment by the surrealist movement.

Praise For Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic (Russian and East European Studies)

“Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic furnishes readers with both a fascinating biography of the artist and a map of the entangled histories of the Czech and French avant-gardes. Huebner’s work will interest scholars of interwar European history, of European sexuality and gender, art history, and international history alike, and the heavily illustrated monograph will intrigue scholars, general readers, and artists in equal measure.” —New Books Network

“Magnetic Woman is a major achievement, very enjoyable and greatly informative.” —Alexander Adams Art

“A critically important and impressively informative contribution to personal, professional, community, college, and university library . . . collections and of immense and special interest for students in Russian and East European studies, Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic is profusely illustrated and especially and unreservedly recommended reading.” —Midwest Book Review

“This beautifully illustrated volume is a major contribution to our knowledge of Toyen and the Czech Surrealist circle, offering an extensively researched biographical account of Toyen’s career and work, notably in terms of her foundational role in the circle in the 1930s and then her career in Paris, where she moved after World War II and became an important Surrealist figure.” —College Art Association Reviews

“The first English-language monograph on this major female twentieth-century painter in her Prague and Paris milieux, Magnetic Woman is not only a scrupulously researched art-historical detective story but a sensitive and insightful exploration of issues of gender, sexuality, and erotic expression in modernist and surrealist art.Art historians owe Karla Huebner a considerable debt for this pioneering study.”Derek Sayer, University of Alberta

University of Pittsburgh Press, 9780822946472, 408pp.

Publication Date: February 22, 2021

About the Author

Karla Huebner is associate professor of art history and affiliate faculty in the Women, Gender, and Sexuality program at Wright State University.